Untold Stories Guide

Black Lives Matter Movement at OSU

Just as the 1960s Civil Rights movement inspired students of color at OSU to challenge the campus administration and community to address issues of race-based invisibility, exclusivity, and injustice, the 2010s #BlackLivesMatter movement is now inspiring a new generation of student activists. (1) In 2012, three women of color created #BlackLivesMatter as an “an online forum intended to build connections between Black people and [their] allies to fight anti-Black racism, to spark dialogue among Black people, and to facilitate the types of connections necessary to encourage social action and engagement.” (2) During the 2014-2015 academic year, OSU’s students of color organized a number gatherings for community dialogue, as well as protests to ensure that the national conversations were reflected at the local level and to show that Black lives matter at OSU.

On November 25, 2014, several hundred students, faculty, and staff gathered in the Memorial Union ballroom for a community dialogue to process the Ferguson grand jury’s decision to not indict the police officer responsible for the death of Michael Brown. The event began with 4 1⁄2 minutes of silence in remembrance of Brown, whose body laid in the street for 4 1⁄2 hours after being shot. During the discussion speakers shared their thoughts on white privilege and systemic Black oppression, with some who drew on personal experiences. They also spoke about the need for education and activism with the evening concluding with a call to action. (3) As a continuation of the community dialogue, in the Winter Term of 2015, OSU began the “Black Lives Series,” a set of conversations for Black people to gather, connect, and share in a safe space. (4) And, on March 12, 2015, OSU hosted a town hall to address the racism present in the University of Oklahoma Greek Life community after a racist chant by fraternity members went viral. The town hall meeting was an open and safe space for the university as a whole to discuss racism within the Greek Life community, as well as an opportunity for the campus’ Cultural Resource Centers to better connect with OSU’s Greek Life. (5)

On May 6, 2015, students of color rallied once again in response to the continued police violence against Black people occurring across the nation. They organized a silent march and protest described by the organizers as “a symbolic gesture to the larger cultural and national silences around these perpetual murders, a way to emphasize the peaceful, but purposeful nature of this protest, to minimize the potential for violent escalation, and a way to solidify and clarify the message of the protest.” The march began at 11am at a number of Cultural Resource Centers with participants carrying signs reading “Black Lives Matter” along with the names of African Americas killed by police. Over 200 people gathered in the Memorial Union Quad, and at 11:45am about two dozen Black demonstrators laid down in the middle of the quad for a few minutes, with the rest of the group forming a circle around them. The intention of the symbolic “die-in” was to “highlight the violence happening against Black people” with a “special emphasis placed on the unmourned bodies of Black Women, Black Trans women, and children, murdered by the police.” As a part of the silent protest, the demonstrators did not speak to the media, however, they did participate in a call-and-response chant declaring, “We have a duty to fight for freedom. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” (6)

As the struggle toward a socially just and inclusive nation continues, the students of color at OSU will no doubt continue to be leaders in striving toward a toward a socially just and inclusive campus environment. As the #BlackLivesMatter organization states, “This is not a moment, but a movement.”


Photos and Sources Cited

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  1. OSU Silent Protest Student Demonstrators, May 6, 2015
  2. Still Image from the Memorial Union Aerial Camera Footage
  3. Black Lives Matter Logo
  4. Black Lives Matter Fist
  5. Ferguson Community Dialogue, November 25, 2014